Many of us are familiar with the phrase “You need some more meat on those bones”. Some of us may have been greeted with that statement during the holiday break when we met up with family who we haven't seen in a while. Despite popular belief, meat is not the only thing that can make a person “bulky”, although it tends to have the most association with it.
During the month of November, the Norwegian military held its first-ever “meat-free Monday” in an effort to decrease the military’s consumption of meat and to protect the environment. "It seems that people don't think it's possible to be an iron man as a vegetarian, it seems like they don't think a good soldier can be a vegetarian, but we have a lot of soldiers who are vegetarian, so I know it's possible," says Pal Stenberg, a nutritionist and navy commander who heads up the army's catering division. What was most surprising about this initiative was the positive responses from the troops. Some of the soldiers didn't even realize the taco meat was replaced with a soy product!
Why hasn't the US Military tried Meatless Monday? They stay away from “low-acceptability foods” or foods that people won’t eat, such as a veggie burger. Although, for troops who eat M.R.E’s (Meals Ready to Eat), or bags of food that are created to stay edible for 5+ years, the vegetarian option seems to be the most popular. Michael Anthony, an Iraq war veteran, shared his story about eating meatless M.R.E’s. He stated that when it came time to eat, many of the soldiers would say that they were Muslim in order to get the vegetarian M.R.E. option. The military caters to religious diets but rarely caters to people who follow diets due to health or environmental benefits. Having this option is great, but sometimes not enough. Meatless choices are usually limited with varieties of pasta, grilled cheese, and salads being their only option. This makes it tough for both vegetarian and vegan troops who suffer from mood swings and passing out because of the little protein and iron available.
Looking at this from a stand point of an athlete, who has been subjected to eating meat because it is said that it provides the most amount of protein for someone whose body needs it to perform, is this the really the only viable option? We have discovered other forms of protein that can be found in items such as beans and eggs, as well as iron that can be found in produce such as collard greens. However, many times these items are prepared with bacon or other forms of protein making it difficult for someone who wants to stick to a vegetarian diet to do so.
For a body that is performing rigorous activities, it is essential to get the proper amount of protein and iron, regardless if it's from meat or not. We know that it is possible to literally sustain an army with meatless options while still providing the right amount of nutrients needed to keep the body functioning at it's best. It's time that we start adapting from our meatless habits and accept new ways to get the same amount of nutrients by lessening our impact on the planet as well!
Your Flexing Flexitarian,